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We have been ASL advocates ever since Pearl was a baby and we saw firsthand the benefits of teaching sign language to a baby. ASL opens up a world of communication not only for the deaf, but also for pre-verbal infants, toddlers, and children with special needs, like those with Autism and Down Syndrome-all of whom may be able to hear, but may not yet be able to communicate with speech. Over the past eleven years we have sampled and sold a variety of ASL materials, most aimed at an older child or parent. They are good and serve their purpose well, but miss the mark as far as kid-appeal. As soon as we saw our first Signing Time! DVD we knew it had both kid-appeal and educational value. The history of the Signing Time! DVDs is nearly as appealing as the DVDs themselves. When Rachel Coleman, a professional singer, found out that her first-born, Leah, was deaf, she and her husband began to learn sign language together, completely immersing themselves in the silent speech that would enable them to communicate with their young daughter. Over time Rachel realized that while they could understand Leah, others could not, including Leah's cousins. So, using Leah, her cousin Alex, and a host of other children, Rachel and her sister Emilie made a music video to teach signs to the children in Leah's extended family. That project has expanded now to twelve DVDs with more on the horizon. And not only has Leah benefited, so has her younger sister Lucy, whose cerebral palsy has made communication apart from ASL difficult.

Why do these DVDs work better than others? I think, and many parents have confirmed, that it is the inclusion of many children that makes the difference. Seeing other children signing and enjoying the process encourages the reluctant child to experiment and learn this new skill.

Since the release of the first DVD in 2002, the quality of the production has improved slightly. If you get more recent DVDs you'll notice a bit of difference, but the basics remain the same. On each DVD you see the word, you hear it spoken, and then you see Rachel clearly teaching each sign, followed by a vast array of children practicing the sign. I am a nut when it comes to children so I really like watching these little-bitty children signing and enjoying themselves. I also like the inclusion of special needs children in a production-so appropriate! There is a lot of animation and live-action to make sure a young child plainly understands the meaning of the sign.

If your family is very conservative in nature, you may not like the catchy secular songs, dancing, or attire on these DVDs, but before you totally rule them out, there is an option on the DVD menu that allows you to watch the signs only. In fact, regardless of where you sit on the conservative spectrum, watching “signs only” is a prudent option. Most children do not benefit from unlimited media, so we would encourage you to watch “signs only” and save the complete program as an occasional treat. And what a treat! These children are absolutely captivating.